Texas Hit Hard as VA Claim Appeal Backlog Grows Larger, Waits Longer.
Bergmann & Moore lands in the media spotlight again this week advocating for our disabled Veterans. In an eye-opening investigation published by the Austin American-Statesman newspaper on March 17, 2014, journalist Jeremy Schwartz reports that efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reduce the notorious claims backlog have actually brought unwelcome and harsh consequences for our disabled Veterans, especially in Texas.
The story includes comments from Bergmann & Moore partner Glenn Bergmann, who told Schwartz, “VA’s initial plan of rushing new claim decisions backfired.” VA has promised Veterans the agency will eliminate the backlog of new claims pending more than 125 days. However, VA’s myopic focus on new claims has adverse consequences.
Indeed, Schwartz is one of a small handful of reporters nationwide to point out that as first-time claims have dropped nationally, the number of appealed claims has skyrocketed.
For every action VA seems to take, there appears to be an opposite and harmful reaction for our Veterans. In this case, the number of appeals and the amount of time Veterans wait for VA to decide an appeal continue rising sharply.
Nowhere is that more evident for our Veterans and their families than in the state Texas – especially its embattled Waco VA office. Texas easily leads the nation now in the number of Veterans awaiting the results of their appeals, Schwartz said.
The 34,912 pending appeals in Texas offices far outpace second-place Florida, with 23,708, Schwartz writes. The three VA offices in California, the only state with more Veterans than Texas, have half as many pending claim appeals.
Nationwide, the average time VA takes to process a new claim hovers around 300 days. For appealed claims, VA takes an additional 900 days. VA makes an error in as many as 55% of claim decisions, according to the American Legion. That’s why VA’s failures are called the “claim delay and error crisis.”
(Chart: Austin American-Statesman, March 17, 2014.)